Five Questions with . . . Hugh McCafferty

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In 2012, Hugh McCafferty and wife Fi ran their first ukulele-themed festival in Geraldine. Now in its sixth year, Geraldine Ukefest returns a week today for four days of musical fun centred around the small four-stringed instrument. Mr McCafferty takes part in The Courier’s Five Questions series ahead of the event.

Q What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?
Meeting up with old friends and being surprised by what new performers can do.

Q Where did the idea come from?
We taught ukulele for a while. We then formed a little group which played publicly at a concert we ran. A few days later my wife and I had a very enjoyable lunch at [Geraldine cafe] Verde. Encouraged by a very fine Chardonnay we sketched out a plan for an ukulele event on a table napkin.
The idea of getting a few players together for a big strum-along somehow turned into the first Geraldine Ukefest.

Q The festival is in its sixth year.
What has changed during that time?

We now use a professional to provide light and sound. It is one of the big-ticket items in our budget.
However, the experience of hearing oneself under the masterful sound-mixing of Timaru sound man Richard Howey is a very encouraging experience. This is especially true for amateurs who have only ever played open mics with indifferent sound systems.
Good lighting turns a performance into a show.

Q Why should South Canterbury residents come along to the festival?

You don’t need to play the ukulele to enjoy great musicians and colourful people having fun.
At The Big Strum people are welcome to come and join in the singing even without an instrument.
Words and chords are on the big screen and you are among friends so think of it as a mass group karaoke with ukes added.
At the concert we have people who are musicians first and ukulele players second.
Locals might be surprised at the quality of performance.

Q And, last of all, why did you select the ukulele as your instrument of choice?

My first instrument is the violin. I also play guitar and bass.
When you pick up the ukulele people generally have very low expectations.
So when you give a half decent performance it is generally appreciated.